Elizabeth Keserauskis

Building relationships and making connections

A Virtual Week at Summer Camp

camp ondessonk logoSo many of us benefitted from a camp in the summer—whether it was in the woods or in a science lab or in a gym, the events during those camps helped shape who we are today. One of my particular favorites is Camp Ondessonk, a rustic, outdoor Catholic youth camp in Southern Illinois.

So how could you possibly recreate such an experience in the “off season”, if you will, perhaps not exactly but as close as you can get using virtual tools? Camp Ondessonk and Elasticity are making it happen. I am currently participating in Ondessonk Online this week. While I think it is a brilliant idea, I certainly was skeptical of how to transform as much of the experience as possible into virtual activities.

From the Camper Guide we received:

This program takes place entirely within the normal activities of Facebook and Twitter. Campers will only need a basic knowledge of those two channels, as well as the basic ability to navigate the web, to participate.

So far, this has been absolutely true! I am particularly interested in how to effectively utilize social media to energize your passionate base, as well as pull a few folks into the brand experience who would not otherwise have the opportunity to meet and experience camp Ondessonk. More interesting though is how you can invoke visceral emotional reactions in the “guests” to this virtual event—so much so that they continue their engagement with Camp after virtual camp is over. Whether volunteering for work days, contributing money for campership and general operating funds, or helping recruit by talking about their great experiences, I truly hope this is one more way to keep our constituents engaged and attract more.

For now, you can watch the event unfold by following @OndessonkGA and the #ondessonk hashtag on Twitter, and the chatter on the Camp Facebook page, facebook.com/CampOndessonk. As with all things, the participants have to put effort forth in order to reap benefits after.  I’ll report back the success when the week is finished.

What other events or experiences are successfully conducted online and utilizing social media? What was effective? What wasn’t?

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February 9, 2012 Posted by | connecting, engaging, marketing, social media | , , , , | Leave a comment

LinkedIn Group Management and Membership

I am debating myself: to restrict membership or allow anyone to join; to require verification if a restriction is in place or just trust.

The context is primarily within LinkedIn groups. I can understand restricting group membership for associations who provide member-only access to content. And to become a member of the association, one must pay dues. The old adage “why buy the cow if the milk is free” certainly applies.

In the case of an institution of higher education, affiliation with the university can take shape many ways:

  • Current student
  • Alumnus
  • Parent
  • Current employees
  • Past employees
  • Took a few courses or continuing education courses
  • And more I’m sure

Do you allow anyone to join the group? Do you ask that they at least express their affiliation with the university on their LinkedIn profile? How do you verify accuracy? Do we even care about accuracy?

Accuracy would be important to the groups providing content as a membership benefit. An interesting side note—I recently requested to join the LinkedIn group for a membership-driven association. I just received a “no thank you” message indicating the group is restricted to association members only. Hmmmm… guess I’ll have to waste some time trying to demonstrate my membership IF I find the content valuable. I likely will waste that time, given my current debate!

Is accuracy really important if you are just trying to build a community and ultimately discussion around a common theme? Verification of the accuracy becomes not as important as asking the members to identify their affiliation to the group or how they fit in with the common theme. It is important to separate what qualifies you to join the group from what you are hoping to accomplish with the group (or hoping DOESN’T happen).

Ground rules (house rules, group expectations, etc.) will help keep the group focused on the common theme and not abuse the privilege of membership. Nearly all of us have experienced the abuse of the communication tools with the group members by that one or two people who spam the list selling their products or services. Reserving the right to delete content and restrict privileges is critical, and must be made clear to the members.

And to those who keep spamming the members with sales pitches—go read up on the importance of engagement and conversation in a community. And there are still only two letters difference between helping and selling.

I’d love to see examples of “ground rules” in groups, and feedback on whether you require members to display their affiliation on their profile before accepting the request to join.

January 3, 2012 Posted by | connecting, engaging, social media | , , , | Leave a comment

New Implications for Your Job Search: 7 Years on File

All Facebook: the unofficial Facebook resource, posted an article recently (ALERT: Job Screening Agency Archiving All Facebook) about Social Intelligence Corp, which offers a background checking/screening service for employers. From their article:

The FTC decided Social Intelligence complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the same set of rules that keeps your bill-payment records on file with the consumer bureaus for seven years, according to Forbes.


That means your antics documented, photographed, posted and tagged on Facebook will be available to your prospective and current employers for 7 years. I have heard comments from folks saying that isn’t it about time we stopped trying to pretend like people we really aren’t in order to get a job? Sure that would be the perfect world. But do you really want to be the trailblazer to set that trend? If so, your job options will be severely limited–best of luck with that.

So if you haven’t already appropriately adjusted your privacy settings and stopped posting the ridiculous and embarrassing photos and status updates, now is the perfect time. Get your head out of the sand! Seems to me given this development and the recent facial recognition technology addition, folks better start thinking more seriously about their online reputation (especially kids getting ready to enter the workforce in the next 7 years.)

June 22, 2011 Posted by | reputation management, social media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speaking of LinkedIn…

Since my last post was about LinkedIn, I thought I would share the groups to which I belong on LinkedIn. I have only included the marketing groups I find useful.

MarketingProfs– Group Profile: MarketingProfs is a community of marketers centered around smart, quick, and actionable know-how and discussion. More than 360,000 subscribers read our newsletters and blog, attend our events and seminars (both live and virtual), and participate in the MP discussion forum. (interesting note: their group profile page has a spelling error! A result of fast fingers on the keyboard I suspect. I did not repeat the mistake here.)

Inbound Marketers– Group Profile: Online group for marketing professionals. A community those looking to reach their best customers online through techniques like inbound marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media. I do feel that it tends to be an engine to drive traffic to their seminars, but you can often find interesting conversations and smart people to follow here.

Southern Illinois Marketing & Communications– Group Profile: When you leave the large market, marketing and communications professionals begin to wear more hats in their career. The group is dedicated to those marketing, PR and Communications professionals who are juggling all three expertises (if not more). Since I happen to be located in Southern IL, I like this group to connect with other folks located or doing business in the area. It’s nice to stay abreast of issues specifically occurring in your region.

Are we connected yet? My profile: linkedin.com/in/bethkeserauskis

Any other groups we should know about? What do you learn from them?

October 28, 2010 Posted by | connecting, relationships, reputation management | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Engaging Presentations

Last night I attended the Meet the Design Teams event for The City + The River + The Arch Competition at the Roberts Orpheum Theater in St. Louis. They have narrowed the field down to five design teams who are vying for the chance to design the landscape around the St. Louis Arch grounds on both sides of the Mississippi River and do a better job of incorporating this iconic piece of public sculpture into the city of St. Louis and it’s tourism industry.

I have to say it was very refreshing to watch Joe Buck as the emcee. He really injected some humor into it. He came right out of the gate saying that this was going to be a fun event rather than a formal event and almost took more of a approach of a traditional “roast” event rather than a formal presentation. So, immediately I was heartened to see that it wasn’t going to be a long boring night of presentations.

However, when the first design team got up to present their capabilities and their team members, I was a little disappointed the he was not as engaging a speaker as Joe Buck. I wasn’t expecting him to be a perfect speaker. However, I was asking for it to be a little bit more engaging and interesting and to capture my attention.

I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that the presentation set-up in the theater was poor. The image quality on the projection screen was dark and blurry at best. I don’t have the best eye sight but I don’t need glasses, and sitting in the back of the theater it was extremely difficult if not impossible to read any of the text on the slides and to make out the specific details and some of the images. And, his presentation was heavy on photography and imagery. So, I found that to be distracting and I lost interest very quickly in what he was saying because, I struggled to see what he was referring to on the presentation slides.

So, I guess my take away from this event was the importance of being an engaging and dynamic speaker. To capture the attention of an audience that can range anywhere from people who are specifically interested in architecture and design to just the general public interested in what’s happening in the community. You have to find that perfect balance between getting very technical to please the technical people but, also being very engaging and top of a strategy oriented to draw in the general public.

I also understood the importance of really understanding the venue in which you are presenting and the tools that are available for you, and tailoring your presentation to meet those challenges. I think that if any speaker would have paid close attention to the venue and the equipment available, they probably would have tailored their presentation a bit differently to meet those equipment challenges. And therefore, would have done a better job of engaging people.

Some of the best presentations I’ve seen interacted with the audience and really drew people with what interested them into the presentation. I know that it’s difficult to do with a large crowd but I think it’s possible.

So, my challenge to myself and to all of you is: What are you going to do to make each presentation different and unique and draw in that audience?

April 29, 2010 Posted by | connecting, engaging, public relations, reputation management | , , , | Leave a comment

The Jury is Still Out on Twitter

I have seen some successful customer service interactions on Twitter and experienced not some not-so-great customer service interactions on Twitter, specifically involving Dell. I am still not exactly certain how Twitter can be successful from the individual user, or customer, perspective. If you are a corporation looking to get involved in Twitter from the perspective of generating original content, how can you generate content that people actually want to read? Obviously, most people don’t really care about the mundane things, such as me sending a tweet saying that I am driving to work this morning. The people who are preaching about Twitter as an opportunity for your business to get engaged with social media seem, to me, to be more interested in increasing their number of followers or the number of tweets they send versus really trying to engage with the audience. I question, do you actually [have a signal with] your customer or you are just generating a bunch of noise? If you have 100,000 followers, I challenge you to show me that you actually can have an interactive relationship with all 100,000 people. So if you are just generating and broadcasting content for the sake of hearing yourself talk, and that’s your objective, maybe Twitter is for you. If you are actually using it to try to connect with people, I still have yet to see how that is actually a viable option.

The other thing that I have noticed is that many of those who are preaching about twitter or generating the most content or the most followers also happen to be male. Now, this may sound exceptionally reverse-chauvinist or reverse-sexist, but I wonder if what is at play here is that women in their 30’s and 40’s have kids and careers and families and are trying to balance them all. The things that get cut from your time are those things that don’t have the biggest bang for their buck.  I am wondering if Twitter is one of those that has yet to show a big bang for the buck and is, therefore, being dropped from the radar of some individual women. Now again, I don’t have any substantial proof to make these statements but it is just a feeling I have, especially when I am talk to several women also in the field of marketing and advertising that feel the same way about how can you incorporate Twitter as an effective communication strategy.

In the subsequent post, I will talk a little bit about the rich customer service opportunities that abound, monitoring the conversation about your brand using Twitter, and finding ways to have conversations with individuals that I have seen to be successful. But –just Tweeting for the sake of hearing yourself talk is not an effective communication strategy unless your whole goal is simply to make yourself look good and make noise.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | connecting, marketing, relationships, social media | , , , | 2 Comments

Most productive CEOs

I recently read an article in Inc. magazine that featured several CEOs talking about work habits that have contributed to their success, or helped them be more efficient, in their particular business environment. The first CEO that caught my attention was Caterina Fake of Hunch who talked about keeping her schedule completely free-form, and working on what she wants to work on, whenever she wants to work on it—whatever seems right at the time. That approach would be great if you only had to work on certain things and could delegate everything else to a person below you. But for me, her approach doesn’t provide a good suggestion of how to help prioritize my day, or do a better job of delegating, so that I can sit and focus or work on the things that I want to work on at that particular time. After testing that strategy for a few days, I would up with a lot of work that didn’t get done during the week, waiting for me to do over the weekend. That isn’t helping me achieve work-life balance. Perhaps I am not delegating well enough.

One interesting, great thing she mentioned in the article is that when she conducts her staff meetings, everyone is standing during the entire meeting.  Also, everyone drinks 16 oz. of water before the meeting starts, and the meeting is over when the first person has to go to the restroom. To me, that seems like an incentive to keep your meetings short, to the point, brief, and not waste your time meeting for the sake of meeting, but rather get out there and get something done for your company. Go build a relationship. Go check an item off your to-do list. I brought that suggestion to the next regular staff meeting I have to attend. Everyone seemed to agree–let’s see if it gets implemented.

The other CEO that caught my attention in this article was Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks, who claims that he only conducts business and correspondence through email. He does not utilize voicemail or meetings. If you do require his attention in a meeting or by voicemail, it better be something very good and important…likely conducting millions of dollars of business.

Now, there’s something lost for me when you communicate only exclusively through email. First of all, you assume, and insist, that everyone you deal with also operates through email. To me, a sign of a good manager of people is that you adapt your communication style to fit the needs of those working for you. My job is to bring out the best in people and help them achieve their potential. So if, for example, someone’s personality or style is not conducive to business via email exclusively, are you isolating them? Are you potentially surrounding yourself with people who are like you, rather than surrounding yourself with a rich, diverse mix of people who bring different trades, ideas, thoughts, and processes to the table?

I think an emphasis on diversity brings a richer mix of ideas and innovations to the table. But then again, Mark Cuban has made quite a bit of money and is quite successful at what he does. I guess, once you get to that point, you can tell everyone around you how you prefer to do business. But in the meantime, those of us who are still stuck in the middle and trying to work our way up will need to continue to adapt to the communication styles of those who are reporting to us. Also, you can’t tell inflection, personality, or emotion through written, email correspondence.  There’s something to be said for working either via the phone or in person, being able to get to know someone just a little bit better.

I also ask, how do these ‘unique’ work styles affect relationships with the customer? If you will only communicate with them via email, or you won’t commit to a schedule or timeline, is that helping further the relationship or to begin a new relationship? Unless you are in a business where your customers have no choice but to do business with you, I would suggest that you be willing to meet your customers where they are comfortable conducting business and communnicating with you. That will likely lead to a multi-layered communication strategy to address the varying needs.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | connecting, leadership, relationships | , , , , | Leave a comment

A pro female athlete provided me business wisdom through a sports lens

I had the pleasure of attending the Missouri Valley Conference women’s basketball championship match last Sunday at the St. Charles Family Arena. Before the game, we were invited to a luncheon and where Kristin Folkl-Kaburakis was the key note speaker and the group was a reunion for the NCAA Beyond the Baseline event. Last year, we worked with middle school girls through the NCAA Beyond the Baseline program by providing mentoring and leadership development for inner city middle school girls. It was great to see so many of the girls at this reunion and reminisce about the event.

The Court of LifeKristin, a former WNBA star (read more in the St. Louis Woman Magazine article) focused on how as an athlete, the time you spend on the court is really only a small percentage of the overall experience. She challenged us to ask ourselves what we are doing to make sure that we are participating in each and every aspect and part of that process and the full experience beyond on what is just happening on the court during an actual athletic event. I think this is a great analogy not only for use as these girls are growing up and participating in a variety of things, trying to decide on what they are most interested in, but also for us in the business of marketing and building relationships and creating connections.

Though what each of us defines as a “sale” may vary, but that “sale” is such a small percentage of the full experience for a customer. What are doing to nurture and cultivate and participate in every single step of that process not just the actual “sale” or “signing on the dotted-line.” How are you not exclusively focusing on that tiny little percentage—though granted that could be a substantial amount of money in some instances? The most important element of customer service and satisfaction is the relationship–how are you cultivating that relationship with your customer?

So thank you, Kristin, for providing such words of wisdom. Though in a completely different context, it is something that really has made me think about more than just sporting events or life experiences, rather how this has practical application to business.

March 15, 2010 Posted by | connecting, marketing, relationships, sales | , , , | Leave a comment

The power of service with a smile

Luck o' the IrishThis morning my husband and I wanted to join in the “luck o’ the Irish” and have a pre-St. Pat’s Day parade traditional Irish breakfast at a local Irish pub. We have patronized this establishment in the past, and believe in supporting local businesses. Our experience prior to this particular morning has always been fine. Never extraordinary, but fine nonetheless.

Not so this morning. We read in the local paper that they were serving breakfast this Irish morning (note: they are not typically open for breakfast). What we did not notice until we arrived and saw the sign on the door was that reservations were required. Noting that there was NO ONE yet in the restaurant (and they were indeed open), we decided to go in and explain that we did not have reservations and see if they could still accommodate us. The bouncer at the door (yes, even at breakfast they were anticipating that the St. Patrick’s day partying and drinking would begin at the start of the day) and the first server we came across were very friendly and happily said they would go find out.

After standing there for what felt like 20 minutes (but was really like 5), noticing that food was ready to be served, that NO ONE was in there eating breakfast yet and remembering that the bouncer told us no one had made reservations before 8am (it was 7:15), we told him not to worry about it that we would just leave. Right at that point the server came back and told us we could eat. This was also after being able to watch her ask presumably the owner whether he would allow us to stay and eat, and then watching him sigh, look at us and say okay.

Then we were sat at the family-style long table by ourselves, served our coffee and shown the buffet area (which was already completely stocked with food). Our server visited us a total of three times—for us to order coffee, receive coffee and asked if we needed a refill. We spent 20 minutes in silence by ourselves eating breakfast with no one else arriving for their reservation. Thankfully we had enough cash and exact change to cover the bill and tip, because we left largely unnoticed. The only saving grace was the bouncer thanked us for our business and told us to have a nice day.

If you are in the restaurant business, you are clearly in the customer service business. If your customers are not having a great experience, they are not going to build a relationship with you and continue to patronize you. However strongly I feel about patronizing local businesses, experiences like this make me want to rethink the strategy. My recommendation to them is to assign the bouncer a new role: Chief of Customer Experience. He was the only one who made us feel welcome.

Is your customer experience warm and welcoming? Do you make your customers feel like an interruption to your day or a vital component of your success? Whether you are in the restaurant business, retail sales or higher education—your audience is passing judgment on your business based on their experience and telling other people about it. Make sure they are talking about what a wonderful experience they had with you.

March 13, 2010 Posted by | marketing, relationships, reputation management, sales | , , | Leave a comment

A mascot is more than a sports cheerleader

Lets just talk a little bit today about how a mascot for a school or institution of higher education is so much more than just a representative of the athletics program or something that helps rally school spirit and pride. It can be a tool by which you continue your efforts to improve your relationships and manage your reputation within your community. Many people above and beyond season ticket holders are fans. When an institution needs to change its mascot costume—not necessarily the mascot itself but the costume that some poor soul has to don during each of the games—there are several ways in which you could do it. You could

  1. Just decide based on price which has its obvious implications,
  2. Decide based on looks amongst the people in charge of the mascot, or
  3. Take it a step further and use it as a relationship building tool.

SIUE Mascot Corey the CougarI am clearly a fan of #3. Get as much mileage out of this process as possible from a relationship building perspective with your publics. Allow your fans to vote after you’ve narrowed it down to 3 options everybody could be happy with no matter which was selected. Unveil these selections at a home athletic contest depending on what sport you get the most fan base at, or at a major university event and allow fans to vote. You can also post it on line and distribute it through your social networks, encouraging fans to give us their opinion and vote on the options.

It gives your constituents, your customers, or partners the opportunity to tell you what they think, and to engage them in a conversation. Give them a reason to feel invested in the organization. In this case they feel that they have a vested interest in this mascot, then when it comes time to unveil the new costume, you now have a platform to create this big splash and really encourage folks to attend the event where the new mascot is unveiled. Use that opportunity to continue to nurture the relationship with your customers whether it is you athletics fans, your student base, or your faculty and staff.

There are folks who may not necessarily frequent athletic contests but are very interested and passionate about the school—to them the mascot represents the whole organization, not just the athletic teams. So here is just one more way that something so simple as selecting a costume for the mascot, can really be a great way to engage your audience at very little or no cost. Just a small investment of your time.

March 5, 2010 Posted by | connecting, higher education, marketing, relationships | , , | Leave a comment